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The 3 Longest NHL Winless Streaks

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The Buffalo Sabres are at an interesting point in their 2020-21 season. Ever since their win against the New Jersey Devils on February 23rd, Buffalo hasn’t won a single game. The Sabres are on a 17 game winless streak. Even when they had chances in two of those games to win in OT or a shootout, they haven’t been able to pull it out.

The media has been outright laughing at Buffalo’s expense, and I can’t blame them. But even though they have lost 17 straight games, there are still three worse teams who have been than they have. Let’s look at those three teams right now.

1980-81 Winnipeg Jets: 30 Game Winless Streak

The Winnipeg Jets had an interesting history when it came to becoming a franchise. Winnipeg had its team revived three times as a franchise to get to the franchise they felt would work. The 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets would become the worst team of that tenure.

The team would have a 9-57-14 record. They were dead last in every category. The worst part is they had three head coaches this season. They started with Tom McVie, who only went 1-20-7 as the head coach. While Bill Sutherland did better than McVie, he also got canned after going 6-20-3. Mike Smith would become the final coach for the Jets that year, but only went 2-17-4.

Part of the reason Winnipeg was winless in 30 games was due to their schedule. They had the most challenging schedule out of any team that year, facing the big powerhouses like the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks, and the New York Islanders.

There was also the fact that the NHL never had a shootout, so even if they tied, it’s still not considered a win. Once they tied against the Quebec Nordiques on October 19th, 1980, the whole season changed. Winnipeg’s scoring was also inconsistent, as sometimes they would either score so low their opponent had to do little to beat them.

Sometimes Winnipeg would score many goals in one game, but since they played opponents with high-scoring talent, it wouldn’t matter as they would end up losing or tying. But they finally broke their winless streak on December 23rd, 1980, against the Colorado Rockies by winning 5-4. But there is a happy ending for the Winnipeg Jets. With the Jets having the worst team that season, they had the No.1 pick in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. They used that pick to select future Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk.

1975-76 Kansas City Scouts: 27 Game Winless Streak

Before the New Jersey Devils were born, they had two other franchises that didn’t have significant successes. The Kansas City Scouts only lasted two years before being relocated to Colorado to become the Colorado Rockies. The 1975-76 season would be their final season in Kansas City. Unlike, Winnipeg they managed to win double-digit games that season. However, it didn’t mean much they also had three head coaches that season.

Bep Guidolin went 11-30-4 before he was removed as head coach. The next coach, Sid Abel, only managed three games in which he lost all three before he was shown the door. Finally, the last coach of the Scouts that year was Eddie Bush, who only won one game. He went an awful 1-23-8 before the season came to a close.

Their winless streak had similar problems as Winnipeg, in which they were almost last in every category. After their 5-1 win against the Washington Capitals, they began their losing streak. The Scouts had a rough final couple of months, losing many games due to scoring about no more than two goals per game. Like with Winnipeg, since their schedule was so hard, their opponents would only need only the bare minimum to beat them since they were terrible at scoring. However, the Scouts losing streak is upsetting for a specific reason.

Kansas City would never win another game ever again. They were winless in 21 games in regulation and tied six more games to end their season and the franchise in general. It’s agonizing the way that that’s how the Kansas City Scouts ended their franchise. They didn’t even get the first pick in the NHL Draft before moving to Colorado. The selection went to another team who did even worse and even had a losing streak just like the Scouts.

1975-76 Washington Capitals: 25 Game Winless Streak

When the Washington Capitals started their franchise the year prior, they looked horrid. They went 8-67-5 which is one of the worst starts for an NHL franchise that there has ever been. Their second season wasn’t much better as they went a measly 11-59-10. Unlike the other two teams, the Capitals had only two head coaches this year instead of three.

Their coach Milt Schmidt, who was the least bad out of the three coaches in the previous year, was the head coach for the first 36 games. He went 3-28-5 before he was eventually canned and replaced by Tom McVie, who was mentioned earlier as a coach of the Jets. McVie managed more wins but still went a horrific 8-31-5.

However, the Capitals organization loved him so much they kept him for a couple of years after. Most of the similar problems mentioned with Winnipeg and Kansas City also apply to Washington here. They had inconsistent scoring problems, sometimes never scoring a goal in several games. Like the other two teams mentioned, the Capitals had the most challenging schedule out of all the league teams. However, another issue they had was their goalie problems. The Capitals goalies let in anywhere from 6-9 goals a lot of times during the streak.

The Caps carried three goalies during that year. Ron Low had a 5.46 GAA and a .854 save percentage. Michel Belhumeur had a .860 save percentage and a 5.11 GAA. Finally, Bernie Wolfe had a 4.17 GAA and a .886 save percentage. The Capitals winless streak started after they lost 5-3 to the Minnesota North Stars on November 29th, 1975, and lost/tied 25 straight games until they finally beat the New York Rangers on January 21st, 1976.

The Capitals ended up as the team with the worse record, losing more games than the Kansas City Scouts, having only 32 points that year. The Capitals would once again end up getting the first overall pick in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft in which they would use to get Rick Green.

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I write articles about the New Jersey Devils.